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Jun / Jul 2011
Gucci's 90 Years

Writer: Emma Farah

Emma Farah traces the last century of Gucci.


1920s Guccio Gucci founds the house of Gucci in 1921. The first store opens in his native city of Florence, on Via Vigna Nuova, retailing fine leather goods. A second store on Via del Parione follows shortly after.

1930s An equestrian-inspired line launches with resounding success leading Guccio Gucci to create his unique horse bit icon. Also the first store in Rome opens on Via Condotti. 

1940s Leather is in short supply as a result of the League of Nations’ embargo on Italy’s then Fascist dictatorship, so Guccio resorts to the use of linen, jute and bamboo for its new Bamboo Bag. It subsequently becomes one of Gucci’s most iconic products.

1950s Gucci opens its first store in Milan, on Via Montenapoleone, and it revamps the equestrian line with (the now hallmark) green-red-green stripes derived from a traditional saddle girth. In 1953, Gucci unveils a loafer with a metal horse bit in line with the opening of its first U.S. store, located in New York’s Savoy Plaza Hotel. In the same year, Guccio Gucci dies at the age of 72. His sons Aldo, Vasco, Ugo and Rodolfo take over. 

1960s The intertwined G’s are registered as a trademark  and applied to bags, small leather goods, luggage and the first pieces of clothing. Gucci expands by moving to bigger premises in New York (next to the St. Regis Hotel), with more stores opening in London, Paris, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills. A ‘Flora’ print scarf is designed for Grace Kelly and the ‘The Jackie O’ bag is launched.

1970s Gucci hits new heights of fashionability – a new NY store dedicated to clothing is opened on 699 Fifth Avenue, while 689 Fifth Avenue is opened to specialise in shoes, bags, luggage and accessories. Gucci also spreads to Tokyo and Hong Kong. Furthermore, the first Gucci perfume is created. 

1980s The Gucci ready-to-wear collection parades for the first time at the Florentine fashion shows, playing heavily on the Flora print. However, a dark shadow reigns over the brand by the mid 1980s as a combination of bad management, family disputes, an early death, a murder case and a tax evasion prison sentence placed the company in decline. Finally, Bahrain-based Investcorp purchases 50 per cent of the company’s shares.

1990s American designer Tom Ford is hired to oversee womenswear before becoming the creative director. Then in 1993, Maurizio Gucci transfers his remaining shares to Investcorp, ending the family’s involvement in the firm. The new owners promote their American-educated family attorney, Domenico De Sole, to the position of  president of Gucci U.S.A. in 1994 and then to ceo of Gucci in 1995. 

2000s Ford and De Sole prove to be a winning combination both for Gucci and the group, pushing through the acquisitions of YSL Rive Gauche, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Boucheron, Sergio Rossi, and part-ownership of Stella McCartney. In 2003, the French conglomerate PPR gains ownership of 60 percent of the Gucci Group’s stock. Both De Sole and Ford leave in 2004. Frida Giannini, a former bag designer for Fendi, who had joined Gucci’s accessory department as part of Ford’s team, is appointed as Gucci’s creative director subsequent to her inventive re-launch of the Flora print as a bag collection.

2010s To honour Gucci’s 90th anniversary, Frida Giannini reveals the ‘Fiat 500 by Gucci’ as well as the ‘Riva Aquariva by Gucci’.

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